Las Vegas is well-known as a convention hub, but few groups it attracts offered as much unintentional irony as the 11th annual AML and Financial Crime Conference held in early October at CityCenter’s Aria. The conference drew hundreds of anti-money laundering experts and financial crimes analysts from across the globe for workshops with titles such as “Leveraging Financial Intelligence Units to Uncover Financial Crime Patterns,” “Spotting Real-Life Suspicious Activity and Red Flags,” and “Implementing a Robust Anti-Bribery and Corruption Compliance and Risk Management Framework.” Funny they should have such discussions in a city that is no stranger to the subject of money laundering, in a state whose laws of confidential incorporation are widely known as some of the most relaxed in the nation. But, these days, most legalized American casinos are cathedrals of regulation compared to some financial institutions and international businesses, which conceal their true beneficial ownership and tax liability behind multiple shell corporations and limited liability companies.
Secretary of State Ross Miller has the impossible task of oversight of Nevada’s corporate registration structuring without appearing to drive away potential business investment in the state. As for the increased federal focus on criminal shell corporations and LLCs, Miller says, “We applaud those efforts. We realize that is an area of abuse. We always give law enforcement the information they need to investigate the bad actors.” But despite some statutory improvements, he admits, “It’s obviously still a problem.”
The one-page advisory barely blipped on the media radar screen when it surfaced back in July. But when the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury essentially puts the casino industry on notice over incidents of possible money laundering structuring, it’s a safe bet it sent regulators scrambling. The gambling industry is large and diverse and operates at varying levels of corporate and regulatory sophistication, but what FinCEN’s investigators gathered gave pause to those who take casino money laundering seriously. Although the location of the casinos wasn’t disclosed, the incidents illustrated what some federal officials fear is a growing trend.
“Recent accounts from law enforcement and regulatory authorities allege that certain casino patrons may have conspired with casino personnel to structure transactions to evade (Bank Secrecy Act) reporting and/or recordkeeping requirements,” the July 1 advisory states. It’s not a simple paperwork crime. Money laundering is often linked to society’s darkest criminal activity. “It’s not just Big Brother,” Camacho said. “We’re talking about going after drug dealers, human trafficking, prostitution, illegal gang activity, terrorism, grand theft, extortion, racketeering, Ponzi schemes, mortgage and check fraud, and embezzlement. They (reporting requirements) are the way we monitor illicit financial activity.”
Authorities believe a Palmdale man stole $1.6 million in high-value chips from the Venetian casino in Las Vegas. Casino security cameras captured the incident, in which the suspect got into a restricted area of the casino. The chances of the suspect cashing in on the theft are slim, said Jerry Markling, chief of the Nevada Gaming Commission’s enforcement division. High-value chips are typically circulated among a small group of top players known by casinos. “It’d be fairly difficult to cash in high-denomination chips simply because most of the licensees know who their players are who receive those types of chips,” he said. “Anybody just can’t walk up to a cage window and cash in a $1,000 or $5,000 chip.”
Cantor Gaming sports book director Mike Colbert was arrested Wednesday in Las Vegas by state gaming agents in connection with a warrant filed by the district attorney in Queens County, N.Y. Gaming and legal sources confirmed the charges involve PinnacleSports.com, one of the largest offshore sports wagering websites. Sources said agents for the website were arrested in several cities Wednesday. Colbert, 32, was booked into the Clark County Detention Center. He faces eight counts of conspiracy, money laundering and enterprise corruption and is scheduled to appear Monday in Clark County District Court. Jerry Markling, the Gaming Control Board’s chief of enforcement, said Colbert was arrested at 6 a.m. at his home a short distance from the M Resort in Henderson. He was one of eight people arrested in Las Vegas on the New York charges. Others were Las Vegas residents Kelly R. Barsel, 42, Jerry M. Branca, 67, Steven S. Diano, 48, Brandt A. England, 49, and Joseph D. Paulk, 35, and Henderson resident Paul Sexton, 29.
Five New Jersey men have been charged as part of a nationwide, illegal sports betting ring that profited more than $50 million by accepting wagers on horse racing as well as professional and college football, basketball, hockey and baseball, authorities in New York announced today. The men were among 25 people from five states charged Wednesday in the enterprise for offenses such as enterprise corruption, promoting gambling, money laundering and conspiracy, the Queens District Attorney’s Office and the New York Police Department said in a news release. “Those who participate in these criminal enterprises often use threats, intimidation and even physical force to collect debts and oftentimes charge usurious interest rates on outstanding debts,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement.
A Carson City woman faces felony embezzlement charges after allegedly stealing an estimated $140,000 as office manager of CINC Industries, an environmental engineering company formerly owned by actor Kevin Costner. Barbara Jean Larson, 56, was arrested October 9 and faces felony charges of obtaining money by false pretenses, uttering a forged instrument and embezzlement. She is due in Carson City Justice Court on Nov. 6. The woman admitted to stealing and told investigators that she has a gambling problem. Larson stated she has a gambling problem and is responsible for taking care of her 87 year old mother. She told Detective Gomes that she does not have any of the money to give back to Mr. Sheldon and that she either used it to live on or gambled it away, the arrest report states. Larson was booked on the charges.
An accounts manager who stole nearly $240,000 from the University of Otago was always warning his team to look out for fraud, a court has been told. Graeme Jeffrey Pettitt, 61 was sentenced in Dunedin District Court yesterday to two years and seven months in prison for accessing the university’s electronic accounting system and taking nearly $240,000 over a seven-year period. “The impact of your actions was significant for those who worked with you,” Judge Michael Crosbie told Pettitt, who was described as “a senior and trusted manager”. Defence lawyer Anne Stevens said Pettitt’s gambling and drinking addictions were more in the nature of an illness and could not be described as greed. Pettitt had publicly acknowledged his offending and his background issues of gambling and drinking. The shame was “absolutely enormous”. He had lost his home, his position and his reputation.
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